Peter Houghton is a Peninsula native. Born in the now demolished Dromana Hospital to hard-working parents Dorothy and Norman, and growing up in Blairgowrie/Sorrento with his three siblings in a world where time moved serendipitously slow, Peter is a tried and true southern seaside boy. Yes, he went to boarding school for seven years, as all his siblings did. Yes, he’s travelled extensively. And yes, he’s always returned to the place he loves most - the wide-open Rye foreshore and family-owned hotel he calls a home away from home. Mornington Peninsula Magazine chats with the man who comes from a long line of hoteliers about how things have changed, what’s in store for the Rye Hotel, and long remembered summers on the Farnsworth Brothers passenger ferries Hygeia and Weeroona that stopped off at Portsea on their way to Sorrento.
When did your parents take over Rye Hotel?
Let’s see. I think it was 1974. They leased it first. It used to be a CUB Brewery lease hotel. There used to be a huge beer garden out the back with all these fabulous fruit trees. I think they bought it in 1999.
What is it you love about the hotelier lifestyle?
My dad was a hotelier, so was my grandfather, so I grew up with it in me. It’s always been part of my life. I started worked at the Koonya and loved being around people. It’s the people that make it great. We have generations of families coming to the Rye Hotel so you build long relationships. The only sad part is that we lose some of them along the way.
You lost your mum, Dorothy, who was very well known around these parts, at the beginning of the year.
Yes. She was 97 years old. She and Dad were very business-minded. They worked tirelessly. That’s the way it always was.
How have things changed at the Rye Hotel over the past decades?
We built the One Four Nelson in 2003 and won a State Hospitality award for it. There’s 30 suites built around a pool, which has been a great complement to the 14 suites upstairs which were completed last year. We’ve also got the Hit the Deck Bar and a games room with billiard tables and we have live shows. We keep doing new things. Time moves on.
Yes, I can’t believe how quickly it goes. But some things never change?
The township of Rye has kept that real down-to-earth family feeling. There’s the launching ramp, the massive foreshore park, the Octopus’s Garden Snorkelling Trail and a traditional and vibrant sailing club. These things don’t change. Spending time with family. The Rye Hotel is about forging those ties with generations. And we’re right in the centre of the golf coast too.
How did you spend most of your time while growing up?
Well, we didn’t have iPads then. There was always something to do. We used to spend the whole day at the beach. Maybe pop home for some lunch, then back again. I was never bored. I loved the Farnsworth ferries. You could just walk right on. We used to go to the local footy match at the Sorrento Football Club – of course it’s the Rye Football Club now, which we’ve sponsored for 40 years.
What’s in store food-wise for summer at Rye Hotel?
Seafood! There’s a great new seasonal menu and there’ll be lots of fresh seafood. We also offer a really good seniors’ meal deal. The fillet steak is delicious! Then there’s all the pub favourites like chicken parmigiana and pasta, and of course a menu for the kids.
From kids to parents to grandparents, the generations of Rye Hotel punters just keep growing under the Peninsula sun. Stop by this summer for the history, home-style food and friendly service. Everyone is welcome.